Efficiently managing your podcast subscriptions: A comprehensive guide

Are you an avid podcast listener, juggling subscriptions across platforms like Spotify or Apple’s Podcast app? With an overwhelming array of options, finding an efficient way to manage your podcasts is crucial. I’ve explored numerous podcast apps, and Downcast caught my attention with its versatile mobile and desktop app features. However, there was another player that fit my requirements better.

Whether you subscribe to a handful or a staggering 67 podcasts like me, certain requirements make the listening experience seamless:

Essential Podcast Listening Criteria:

  1. Cross-Device Accessibility: Listen seamlessly on both laptops and mobile devices with synchronization.
  2. Manage Numerous Subscriptions: Easily handle a large number of subscriptions.
  3. Effortless Sorting: Ability to sort subscriptions by the most recent episodes.
  4. Streamlining Playback: Stream episodes without the need to download, saving valuable storage space.

Previously, I organized my podcasts by sorting playlists by the most recent episodes, skipping what didn’t interest me. However, this method proved laborious. Google Podcasts offered a solution, but its limitations and eventual discontinuation left me searching for a better alternative.

Google Podcasts: don’t use

You can subscribe to a bunch of podcasts with Google Podcasts and sort them by most recent. Every morning I would look through my new episodes and click “add to queue”. Then I play the queue. However, there are two problems with Google Podcasts.

  1. The queue would not automatically play the next episode. When one podcast ended, I would have to click “play” for the next episode manually.
  2. Google Podcasts is being sunset by Google. Of course. Because that’s how Google rolls. You start using one of their services, and then they kill it.

Apple Podcasts: close, but not it

If you are an Apple user, the Podcasts MacOS app is pretty nice. You can easily look at all the recent episodes from our subscriptions, and then put individual episodes into a “saved” list.

However, whenever you “save” a podcast, it downloads the episode to your computer. You might be ok with that, but I don’t want to store a bunch of podcasts on my machine. There is an option to not download the saved episodes. (Settings > Advanced)

However, if you check that box OFF, the playback gets all messed up. 1. You won’t be able to skip ahead in an episode. Really! 2. When one episode is finished playing, the next episode won’t automatically play.

Downcast: an innovative approach

Downcast introduced a game-changing feature: Automated Playlists (see my review from 2019). Whether you prefer short episodes or podcasts on specific topics, Downcast’s playlists cater to your preferences. Additionally, you can customize settings for individual podcasts, like skipping ads.

However, Downcast falls short when it comes to creating custom-curated playlists for daily listening. A workaround involves downloading specific episodes, and listening to the playlist that automatically includes the downloaded episodes. However, I don’t want to to store episodes on my computer or phone.

Spotify: the best podcast management solution (so far)

After exploring various options, I found Spotify to be the best solution.

For the longest time, I avoided Spotify because I couldn’t figure out how to make Spotify display a list of the most recent episodes for all my subscriptions. The podcast page would show a list of podcast icons, forcing me to click through each icon to see the newest episode. HOW BIZARRE. Do people really listen to podcasts that way? It’s like taking a CD off the shelf and putting it into the player. “Today I want to listen to Freakonomics… Oh wait, there aren’t any new episodes. Ok, now I’ll try 99% Invisible…” That clearly doesn’t work. Too much clicking around. But there is an easy solution.

How to make Spotify show a list of the most recent episodes of all your podcast subscriptions

Contrary to my initial confusion, I discovered the power of the “What’s New” bell icon.

How long has this bell icon been in Spotify? I never clicked on the bell icon because it just looked like a way of getting notifications. I didn’t want annoying notifications. But that bell icon is so much more.

Clicking on the bell icon gives you a list of all the most recent podcast episodes!

Using the Spotify queue

Once you have a list of all the recent episodes, you can add intriguing episodes to a queue. Then listen to your queue. Super! When you finish listening to an episode, it disappears from the queue. Or if you skip the episode, it gets removed from your queue.

It can be handy to have the episodes disappear if you skip them, but what if you want to go back to a particular episode? It’s gone forever. You’d have to go back and try to find it. Using a playlist might be a better solution.

Using Spotify’s playlists with podcasts

Playlists are like the next level of podcast listening. It’s like having a record of what you’ve listened to. Or if you want to skip a particular episode, it’s not gone forever.

How to use playlists with podcasts: When you are viewing your “What’s new” section, add an episode to your playlist by clicking the three dots and select the playlist. You’ll end up with a nice playlist containing all the episodes you want to listen to.

Plus, you can share your playlist with others! Every month, I will create a podcast episode list and make it shareable. Here is my 2023 December podcast episodes.

For months after December 2023, check out my Spotify profile.

What you’ll find in my podcast playlists:

  • Diverse Topics: Covering society, technology, design, science, and self-help.
  • Optimal Duration: I prefer podcasts around 20 minutes in length.
  • Exclusions: No fiction, horror, or pop culture podcasts align with my preferences.

Of all the podcasts I subscribe to, here’s a list of the podcast categories and how many podcasts are in that category:

CategoryNumber of subscriptions
Design & Architecture6
  • Four subscriptions have one of these categories: Art, Careers, History, Religion, Stories
  • Three: Documentary, Economics, Marketing, News
  • Two: Self-help
  • One: Books, Business, Comedy, Film, Health, How-to, Jazz, Music, Personal stories, Philosophy

As I create new podcast playlists each month, you can find them on my Spotify profile at open.spotify.com/user/spudart/playlists.

Managing a vast array of podcast subscriptions requires a blend of automation and customization. With Spotify’s intuitive features, I’ve finally found a good podcasting solution, enabling me to enjoy a diverse range of topics effortlessly.

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Leigh Hanlon
1 month ago

Are you using the free or paid version of Spotify? I had a premium subscription until recently but let it lapse after finding most of the same music content on Apple Music. I’ve never used Apple’s podcasts app.

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